A major operation designed at tackling scrap metal theft took place across the North East involving officers from three police forces.
Some 200 staff from Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria police as well as HMRC, the Environment Agency and VOSA (the Vehicle Operator Standards Agency) took part.
Durham police estimated that scrap metal theft now accounts for 25% of all theft offences in its area, prompting it to launch ‘Operation Hansel’.
During the operation, 47 scrap dealers were visited and 10 arrests were made for theft or handling stolen goods.
Inspector Ed Turner, from the Cleveland and Durham specialist operations unit, said: “We reminded the owners of the yards and recycling facilities we visited of their legal responsibilities when accepting scrap metal at their sites.
“If they tighten up their policies and procedures it will make it increasingly difficult for thieves to find an outlet for any metal their steal.”
International Waste Metals trader Chris Trotter said: “Theft in the North East has been escalating for a couple of years and it’s got to a stage where it’s unacceptable.”
His company records vehicle registrations and only take loads from those accompanied with a vehicle and ID. Trotter added: “If we could, we’d take a fingerprint and inside leg measurement.”
As part of the operation checkpoints were set up along the main roads on 6 May, interconnecting the three police areas on the A690, A19 and A181.
Tests were also carried out on vehicles’ roadworthiness, insurance and type of fuel being used. Checks ensured that people travelling in vehicles carrying metal items had a valid waste operator’s licence.